White Smoke: Why the new Pope is significant…

Pope Francis

Today maybe spare a thought and a prayer for what is happening in Rome as the Cardinals go into conclave for the second day. UPDATE The Conclave is over, but the same thought still applies..

Why, you might well ask . What relevance does the Vatican really have to world?

Well the reality is whether a one is a catholic or not, the Catholic church is one of the largest and most powerful “non-political” voices in the world today.

For years the Vatican has been shackled by infighting, corruption and Machiavellian power games and so what could have been a huge force for good in the world instead became a shady question-mark on the world stage.

There was a moment of hope, Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani) a genuinely spiritual and graceful man somehow took the conclave by surprise and came in determined to sweep all the corruption aside. He died the night before he was due to announce his reforms.  He was there for just one month and his death, (or murder? read In God’s Name)  ensured that  the status quo remained unchanged.

Irish seer, St Malachy prophesied only one more pope after Benedict:

In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit.Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremendus judicabit populum suum. Finis.

In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.

The idea of Petrus Romanus is also contained in an ancient prophesy made between 1319-1377 AD, by Blessed Tomasuccio de Foligno, which allegedly details how a future pontiff will heal the Church of schism following a time of turmoil:

“One from beyond the mountains shall become the Vicar Of God. Religious and clerics shall take part in this change. Outside the true path, there will be only disreputable men; I shrug my shoulders when the Bark of Peter is in danger and there is no one to lend it help… The schismatic shall fall into the scorn of the Italian faithful… By about twelve years shall the millennium have passed when the resplendent mantle of legitimate power shall emerge from the shadows where it was being kept by the schism. And beyond harm from the one who is blocking the door of salvation, for his deceitful schism shall have come to an end. And the mass of the faithful shall attach itself to the worthy Shepherd, who shall extricate each one from error and restore to the Church its beauty. He shall renew it.”

Interestingly Benedict XVI announced that his resignation date would be February 28th the feast of St Romanus. What did he mean? Was he telling us that it was time for the schism to end but that he had done all he could and needed to clear the path for a more able shepherd?

There is only one way to remove a whole Curia (Curia = the Vatican Government) and that is for a Pope to die or to resign. If there is a problem of disreputable men who have infiltrated the Vatican Curia, maybe Benedict knew that the only way forward was to resign.

This gives me hope. Imagine a church run by a Dalai Lama type figure, with a genuine spiritual faith and a voice unafraid to speak out on world affairs.

Many think that the church is so lost that no good papal candidates remain. But they do. There are two that come to my mind and I’m sure there are more. If I could wave a magic wand Cardinal Luis Tagle would be Pope and he would choose Cardinal Sean O’Malley as his head of state.

Tagle is one of the most charasmatic and engaging teachers to hit the world in a long time. At just 55 years old he is

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila after becoming a cardinal in November (CNS/Paul Haring)

very young for the Vatican world and that is a good thing. He speaks of the need for “a church that’s humbler, simpler, and with a greater capacity for silence.”

When he speaks there is usually not a dry eye in the house and yet despite his ability to literally rock the room, he is an extremely humble and gentle man.  As John Allen, a Vatican commentator says:  “if Tagle walks out on that balcony the Church has just got a rock star .”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is an equally lovely man. A Capuchin monk who prefers to wear his brown cassock and not cardinal attire is older than Tagle but also very committed to walking the walk and living a spiritual but humble life.  He is tough also and known for dealing very firmly with clergy accused of sexual abuse and very compassionately with the victims.

If these two for example could get in there and reform the church, suddenly the world would have a very big voice as Tagle is not slow to speak out on the world we are shaping:

“It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of ‘progress’? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?”

(Cardinal Tagle speaking at  the 49th International Eucharistic Congress; June 15-22, 2008 in Quebec, Canada)

However we won’t know who it is until the white smoke comes and the new pope steps out on the balcony. There is always hope that the corruption can be reversed, and the hope is that this time good will prevail and whoever it is that emerges will be the one to sweep the house clean, start anew and bring a much needed healing voice to the planet.

We need all the help we can get to bring peace to the world. There is change in the air and we can always hope that even if the sea ahead is rough, that the tide is turning for the good…

Update: Pope Francis is the new Pope

Very close to Tagle and O’Malley in philosophy and way of life so change might indeed be on the way.

Read more about him here  and here Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina

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